Interview by Sue Sandeman
This interview with Pete Doherty was carried out by Sue on behalf of the Independent Newspaper in London. Pete wanted to publish being in treatment and Hope Rehab so he could help other addicts who need rehab. The Independent printed two articles and edited down most of his interview so here is the unedited version.
When did you first start using drugs, and are you aware of when it changed from recreational use to addiction?
When I was at school, I think, I was quite naive to drugs and alcohol. I knew it was going on, but I just wasn’t interested in it. I was just really into football and music I moved school a lot because my dad was in the army.
I think I was 16 when a friend came and said ‘Here have some of this, you’ll love it and it will make you laugh’ – that was a joint, cannabis. So I tried that, and it just made me feel a bit sick really. And besides, that was on an army base which isn’t really the environment to start taking drugs in.
“… it wasn’t even so much taking (the drugs), you know, I just wanted to be around them.”
But then when I finally left home after doing my A Levels, I moved down to London to live with my Nan that was it really. I was kind of like a greyhound out of the trap really. This wonderful, mysterious world of drugs…it wasn’t even so much taking them, you know, I just wanted to be around them.
So I started working with this guy, first just selling weed for him and then selling trips. And we can music. I listen to sixties music, psychedelic, and I go to these underground clubs, and there will be loads of drugs – weed, trips, speed… and invariably I would end up taking them. But in the back of my mind has always been heroin; long before I came across it, long before I touched it. It has always been there, except it wasn’t called heroin. I called it opium. It was a dirty street drug, it was this magic potion.
“… it was an aspect of their world that appealed to me – the opiumated dreamworld.”
I read about Kubla Khan, Thomas DeQuincy, Oscar Wilde, it was an aspect of their world that appealed to me – the opiumated dreamworld. And inevitably I came across someone who could get some half decent stuff and I remember it was quite a big moment for me taking it for the first time. I put it in a spliff and smoked it and went to bed expecting to have all these amazing dreams. I was 22 or 23 the first time I ever smoked it. In fact, I probably drank (alcohol) solidly from the moment I left home until I tried heroin. I mean I change it every day or at least every night because that’s what we did, all the lads I was getting on with, and starting bands with. It was all about getting fucked up and having a good time.
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It wasn’t a night out if you didn’t end up having a fight or a drunken brawl – that was all part of the fun. So alcohol was actually far more important than heroin then. There was no option at that time to become a hero in there. There was no money, you know. I was trying to just get by. I was working behind the bar at a place called Filthy McNasties Whisky Cafe between the Angel and Kings Cross. That was where we (Libertines) first started playing gigs.
“I know, now I don’t have to do drugs to be creative.”
It wasn’t until we were first signed as The Libertines and suddenly we got loads of money. And I said, ‘Right, I’m gonna do everything I ever wanted to do.’ So I got myself a scooter and the flat. It was the first time we weren’t dossing on people’s floors. We called our first flat the Albion rooms. I remember as soon as we signed a record deal, I was offered a line of coke, and then I started washing it up. You know, smoking crack, and despite all the steps are… getting into it was a very creative time. Although I know, now I don’t have to do drugs to be creative.
“…the drugs, they just became the be all and end all of everything;”
But Carl didn’t like it. He couldn’t stand crack or heroin, and he didn’t like the people I was hanging out with. So we split literally when we’re about to release our first album. So I thought ‘fuck you, I can start another band.’ So I started Babyshambles with a heroin and crack addict naturally. And Carl tried to carry on with The Libertines. One thing led to another, and I ended up doing a 6-week jail term. I was angry with Carl when I was inside, but when I was released, he was variegated to meet me. It was amazing, and we ended up doing a gig together that night. We called it the Freedom Gate. And that is the second phase of The Libertines.
And I emigrated to America, started using crack and heroin again and met this homeless guy on the streets. And I thought he was a brilliant songwriter as he was a crack dealer. So I brought him up on stage at the gig we did, but it was a mess. He was okay in rehearsals. He could sing, but once onstage he just lost it. He was just mumbling, and that was the end of The Libertines again. The thing was, I just loved making music with Carl. But the drugs, they just became the be all and end all of everything; people gave me ultimatums: them or the drugs. And I always found some reason to keep the drugs – and it’s not that I’m stupid but for some reason. I would give up anything just to keep the drugs. My relationships with my family, my friends, girlfriends, they all gave me ultimatums, but I just couldn’t accept that it was either them or the drugs. They were part of me.
“I didn’t think I had a problem; I thought this is just me.”
I couldn’t understand it at that time; I just thought I was having “fun”. I didn’t think I had a problem; I thought this is just me. And after the first Libertines split and I started Babyshambles we weren’t making any money, so I was running around in a tracksuit with the shaved head doing whatever I had to to get money for drugs. But I just thought I was having fun. I never even considered that I was in a day. Looking back now, of course, yeah I can see I was already addicted, physically and mentally.
I still had a ridiculous notion that my using was innocent – yes, I’d been to jail, but I wasn’t being stopped every day on the streets and being searched and found in possession of drugs. So I thought I was okay. I hadn’t been given drug treatment orders by courts; I haven’t done rehabs or detoxes. I wasn’t really famous, so I wasn’t yet notorious. My face wasn’t in newspapers… Just running around getting away with it, so it didn’t seem like a problem really.
When did you first want to do something about your addiction, when was it first a problem for you?
Until now it had always been forced on me. I was bailed to go to rehab, or there were conditions like ‘You need to stay in a rehab or go to jail.’ I was banned from coming to London during night hours once, but no I’ve never really wanted to get clean before now. I think this is the first time I said: “I’ve got to go.” This opportunity was set up by my manager Adrian and Simon Mott from Hope Rehab, but this was the first time I wanted to come and get help.
“… the next logical step for me – if I didn’t get help – was just to kill myself.”
I mean, yes, I had been desperate before. There were dark times, but I never thought I need rehab or needed to go to Narcotics Anonymous. I would just pick up my guitar and start writing a song, and that would help. And I’d think ‘Yeah, that solves my problems.’ So I thought, this is what I’m good at and you can’t tell me anything. But eventually that stopped working, and that’s when I needed to go and get help. I got as far as I could; the next logical step for me – if I didn’t get help – was just to kill myself.
I was literally at that stage to just kill myself. That’s what it was getting the geeks I was telling just seem to be celebrating horror pain and darkness and betrayal and despair. Doing gigs was just a nightmare. All the songs were so dark. How would I be able to do it if I wasn’t fucked up? We were playing to a whole new generation of kids who were fucked up like we were when we were their age. Never anyone encouraging me to do drugs. I mean, they’d come up to me and say, ‘Hey Pete, when are you gonna get clean?’ They talk to me about the lyrics of the songs, not about how to do drugs.
Have you accepted the concept that addiction is a disease, that the problem lies within you rather than in the substances you take?
You know, when you’re sitting in a treatment centre, and people are telling you that you have this disease called addiction that’s one thing. But when you have all the people around you i.e. most of the world saying, ‘It’s your fault – pull yourself together, get a haircut’, it’s pretty hard to believe in the disease concept.
“It wasn’t enough just wanting to get clean…”
But then in most aspects of my life, I think, I’m a pretty sane person. If I hadn’t been successful with my music, I think, I would have pushed and pushed myself into something else until I was successful because I’m like that. I’m a grafter, but this one has just flummoxed me, getting clean. It wasn’t enough just wanting to get clean, I mean, I did. I’d tell myself I’ll do anything to stop this but I couldn’t.
“….here at Hope I’ve begun looking at my powerlessness (…)”
And then I’d end up in – it’s was so squalid – in a prison cell, crouched down in the corner with some guy using a spoon to try and get gear (heroin) out of my arse. It’s just insane. Actually, I think my mum accepts that willpower alone can’t help me. She’s been through so much, has suffered so much because of me, that she’s found out a lot about addiction. She knows and understands more about it than me. I think there’s still a part of me that enjoys it, but here at Hope I’ve begun looking at my powerlessness: my life, all the loss, loss of friends, relationships, opportunity, money, the loss of my values, the loss of a relationship with my son – and my daughter, who I’ve only met once, all that loss and I just got so good at blocking it out.
Do you think your creativity is going to be affected when you’re clean?
No, I think it’s going to flourish. All the songs I started and never finished, all the time I’ve wasted while I’ve been using – I couldn’t even tell you. Even if I was at the typewriter I wasn’t doing anything; I was just there. I was more likely to do a line of it than to write anything, so I think my creativity will blossom.
What made you decide to come to Hope Rehab?
This time I wanted help. I needed help. So I did a bit of research. I’d been in another rehab where Simon was the head counsellor before. He started his own treatment centre, so I knew of him, but he had never been my counsellor. But I spoke to a lot of people who’d been in treatment and had got clean and knew about treatment centres and a lot of them said Simon’s the man, so that was it really.
“For (Simon) to say, ‘come when you’re ready’ – that is just magic”
And then the offer he made to me: He said if I wanted to come, there was a space. And that was so important to me because I had this idea that I needed treatment, that I had to get sorted out because I was running out of holes to hide in. I was running out of time and chances. It was just impossible. And for him to say, ‘come when you’re ready’ – that is just magic. I just felt so grateful that there was someone there.
“… when I got to Bangkok Airport, Simon was there waiting for me (…)”
To me, it wasn’t just going to be a bureaucratic nightmare. It was just like ‘get on the plane and come.’ But even then I thought, ‘Yeah, I’ll get on the plane, but I have a couple of days off in Bangkok first.’ But when I got there, but when I got to Bangkok Airport, Simon was there waiting for me. And he just took my bag and put it in the car. And I told him, “I’m thinking maybe, I’ll just have a couple of days so; I’ll just go to a hotel for a few days.” And he just smiled and said, “Yeah, let’s talk about that back at the rehab.” And that was it!
Now you’ve been at Hope Rehab for a month, what do you think about the treatment Centre?
It’s very closely connected to the Minnesota Model i.e. The Twelve Steps, which as far as I can tell is the only thing that works – other than a lobotomy. It is a very very peaceful place. It is so peaceful here with small groups. All the counsellors are trustworthy, and I think there’s a lot of trust given back as well.
“(Hope Rehab) is a place where they nurture the part of you (…) that might actually get you clean”
It’s like if you don’t want to be clean will set you free. I think, this is a place for people who really want to get clean, who are really serious about their recovery – and that’s including the people that work here. This isn’t the sort of place you come to just to avoid a prison sentence, where you might just get clean if you’re lucky. This is a place where they nurture the part of you that you can’t bear to face normally because that’s the part of you that might actually get you (whispers it) clean, the part of you that probably really hates drugs.
“… Each day I just absorb a bit more. And it starts to make sense (…)”
But I’m not an expert. I don’t really understand all of it, but each day we go into groups or therapy, and we’re given arms, tools, to help us, things like ABCs to help us dispute our distorted thinking. Some of it’s really confusing, but that’s okay. I’ve only been here a few weeks, and each day I just absorb a bit more. And it starts to make sense, and also I need this time to heal and get away from the world out there, away from everything. And the local town, well, there’s hardly any tourists here. No foreigners apart from us, just local people, and no drugs as far as I can tell!
What can you tell me about the Pete Doherty Hope Foundation and your relationship with Simon Mott?
Basically, it’s about helping people who I think could benefit so much from treatment here. This is like a really wonderful place to be, and I know some people who would really grab it with both hands. If they have the opportunity, they wouldn’t waste it, but they just don’t have the means. They couldn’t afford it. As far as most rehabs are concerned, Hope isn’t expensive, but some people I know with drug problems live day-to-day from hand to mouth.
So, I was thinking, once I’m a bit further along in my recovery, when I’m allowed, I could do a few shows to raise money and put it into a pot that could be used for people who really want to get clean and need this very special, concentrated treatment. Here I felt comfortable in my room as soon as I arrived. It just felt like home.
“It’s an informal atmosphere okay, but it’s definitely not a holiday camp”
It’s not meant to sound flippant, but there were a TV and DVD player in my brain. I haven’t actually turned them on since I’ve been here but it’s there. It’s like a security blanket: I can watch a DVD if I want to. And it’s so peaceful here. When I can’t sleep at night, I can just step out and it’s quiet. Maybe I can hear a frog or crickets, and I can just walk up to the main house and make a cup of tea. It is just the beautiful silence of the place. Occasionally, there’ll be a little rave in the local village, I mean karaoke but even that is cute with Thai people singing English karaoke songs.
I love the meditation side of things, and that’s something I’ve always struggled with. It is a lovely room with incents, and it’s so quiet. Alon, our teacher, takes us on amazing little meditative journeys. Although I must say, I do prefer the ones where I can lie on my back rather than the ones where am in a yoga position pretending I’m a mango tree. It’s an informal atmosphere okay, but it’s definitely not a holiday camp. I think there are quite a few successful people here but there doesn’t seem to be that much ego. I think I’ve been really lucky. The group seems really interconnected, and there’s good communication.
“There’s always someone around when you need them”
And there’s always someone around when you need them. I’ve been eating and sleeping regularly. I have been a bit slack with the [6:30] AM exercise, but I have only recently finished detoxing. I had my last methadone three days ago. It seems really weird to say that I am clean. It doesn’t really seem possible. I’ve been in it. I don’t think there’s been one session or group with more than 13 clients – sometimes there’s only five of us in the group.
Would you like to help other addicts, to inspire them?
I have to. There are so many people out there who inspire me, not famous people, just people who got to clean. It is just that; just one addict giving another addict hope. Someone gets clean, turns their life around and says, “Yeah, I have so you can.” I mean, that has to inspire you, regardless of whether you’re in the papers or just meet someone at the bus stop.
“… There’s someone there to help, someone whose been in the same place as you are now (…)”
They (Narcotics Anonymous and other 12-step fellowships) say the therapeutic value of one addict helping another is unparalleled, or unequalled. Those aren’t small words. It’s a really powerful statement. Those 12-Step fellowships, like Narcotics Anonymous, are perfect examples of where it’s not about the personality or being a celebrity. It’s about an addict who has reached the end of his fucking track, who wants help or he’s going over the edge. And there’s someone there to help, someone whose been in the same place as you are now and can help you to change.
What would you say to someone struggling in their darkest despair of addiction?
Just hang on, hang on. There is a way out. You will heal. I don’t care how much damage you’ve done, you can heal. I would say ask someone for help, just get yourself along to an NA or AA meeting, you’ll be amazed, I know I was. You’ll be amazed at the power. You might just think it is some mad old duffer babbling on but it’s like it’s you sitting there, he or she is just like you. Only they’re clean now, it’s amazing.